Turn Homeward, Hannalee by Patricia Beatty was Louise’s assigned novel for our Civil War studies. I determined that I would actually read this one, too, so like I did with Lulu, I held Louise to a chapter or two a day so I could keep up. This novel depicts a little known (well, at least little known to me) event during the war. Factory workers, mostly women and children, from Confederate states were deported “up north” and turned loose so they could no longer make war materiel for the Confederacy. This particular novel begins in Roswell, Georgia, and is the story of twelve year old Hannalee Reed and her younger brother, Jem. Both are employed at the local textile mill, and thus both are taken north by Yankee soldiers. (You can read about this actual event here.) Hannalee makes a promise to her mother, a pregnant widow, that she will always “turn homeward” and come back to her family as soon as she is able. The children are deported, along with their older brother’s girlfriend, and undergo hardship and eventually separation. Hannalee is determined, though, to keep the promise she made her mother.
Louise and I both enjoyed this novel. I was particularly happy to read a different viewpoint on the Civil War. In the end, I was also reminded of just how brutal the end of the war was for the South. I was reading Across Five Aprils at the same time that I was reading this novel, so I couldn’t help but compare the two. The fact that I handed my elder daughter a novel about a nine year old protagonist and my younger daughter a novel about a twelve year old protagonist made me wonder if I’d mixed the two up. However, after reading them both, I can say that of the two, this is the simpler tale. While it’s a well-written story, it isn’t as emotionally complex as Across Five Aprils. That isn’t, of course, to say that it’s devoid of difficulties; in fact, this novel doesn’t skirt the horrors of war at all. It’s just not as nuanced as Across Five Aprils. Still, I am glad we read it. (HarperCollins, 1991)